Bobi Wine social media tax case hits a snag over lack of witnesses

Monday August 12 2019
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Bobi Wine at Buganda Road court on August 12, 2019. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

The state has asked for more time to summon witnesses in the trial of the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine and four others for disobedience of statutory duty. 

The other suspects are David Lule, Julius Katongole, Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu and Edward Sebufu. T

State Prosecutor, Barbra Kyomugisha made the request this morning when the suspects appeared before the Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate, Joan Ketty Acaa. 

She explained that they hadn’t been able to summon the witnesses since some of the suspects didn’t show up in the previous court session held in July. Kyagulanyi didn't show up in court as he was away on official duties, prompting court to issue criminal summons against him. 

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MP Bobi Wine starts online petition against social media tax

Saturday July 14 2018

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Singer and parliamentarian Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi said Ugandans, especially the youth who represent majority of the 41 million citizens deserve better.
That’s why he started a petition asking the current government to scrap the new social media and mobile money taxes.

“The youth are demanding to be at the table while issues that affect them are being legislated. Youth represent majority of this country and their voices matter. Help sign this petition to bring awareness about these unfair taxes to masses,” Mr Kyagulanyi who represents Kyadondondo East tweeted on Saturday.

His tweet comes just hours after police said they were holding one of his ‘bodyguards’ for allegedly assaulting their officers during the anti-social media tax protest on Wednesday.
“We have arrested one of the kanyamas claiming to be a bodyguard to Hon. Kyagulanyi Sentamu. The suspect assaulted officers, obstructed officers on lawful duty and stole handcuffs during Mobile Money Protest. A number of charges are yet to be preferred,” said Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigire.

In his petition, Mr Kyagulanyi says the social media tax will have a substantial adverse impact on the social, economic and civic development of Uganda.

“It goes against the Internet’s fundamental principle as a universally open platform for freedom of speech, access to information and public participation. The tax also suffocates the digital economy, the predominant money making sector, and a key component for fostering innovation and creativity. In order for the digital economy to thrive, innovators and entrepreneurs need to depend on e-payments, e-learning, and social media as a means of growing their businesses, increasing their professional knowledge, communicating and adding overall value to the state of the economy and their communities,” he said.

Below is a full statement accompanying his petition;
On May 30, 2018, The Government of Uganda passed into law the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which seeks to tax Social Media and Mobile Money usage in Uganda. The law was officially effected on July 1, 2018, and requires users of over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, Hangouts, Instagram and other social media platforms in Uganda to pay an obligatory daily charge of 200 Ugandan Shillings.

President Yoweri Museveni and the Parliament implemented this unconventional bill, claiming that young people use social media platforms to promote "gossip" in the country. Contrary to the President's beliefs, the majority of youth in Uganda are using social media to create new jobs, connect to both local and international audiences, and find markets for their products using platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

The tax will have a substantial adverse impact on the social, economic and civic development of Uganda. It goes against the Internet’s fundamental principle as a universally open platform for freedom of speech, access to information and public participation.

The tax also suffocates the digital economy, the predominant money making sector, and a key component for fostering innovation and creativity. In order for the digital economy to thrive, innovators and entrepreneurs need to depend on e-payments, e-learning, and social media as a means of growing their businesses, increasing their professional knowledge, communicating and adding overall value to the state of the economy and their communities.

The tax also discourages Internet usage by undermining the freedom of expression by marginalized groups like women, the disabled, and the poor. In fact, it will likely only increase the digital divide, leaving groups already marginalized with a further gap in benefiting from the digital economy.

Mobile Money has become instrumental in bringing the majority of unbanked Ugandans into the formal banking sector. For a population of over 44 million, there 22 million Mobile Money subscribers as of 2017.

The tax implemented on Mobile Money requires subscribers to pay a 0.5% receiving and withdrawal tax on top of paying withdrawal fee mandated by mobile network operators. The result makes using Mobile Money expensive for the majority of users.
For youth across the country, Mobile Money has been at the core of driving Innovative local solutions and new business models have resulted in the mobile payments space. The tax on Mobile Money will render the majority of the youth unemployed and thus widen the already high rate of unemployment in the Country.
As young people, we cannot allow this to happen. Keeping quiet means that we are going to have to forfeit all the life-changing opportunities that social media and financial inclusion provide.
The Issues
As youth we see three fundamental issues wrong with these taxes:

  • The taxes were implemented unilaterally and without public input
  • The faulty rationale provided is contrary to the best interests of the citizenry
  • The Social Media Tax is contrary to the fundamental principles of a healthy, open Internet

Our Demand
We, the young people of Uganda demand that the Social Media and Mobile Money taxes be annulled because they suppress job creation, talent development, innovation, and freedom of expression.

Moving Forward
Youth represent 78% of the population and the majority of the users of the Internet and social media. Our voices must be counted and heard for policy changes that will have such a great impact. We believe in the multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance that requires that all stakeholders, i.e. private and public sector be involved in drafting and adopting policies that affect Internet usage.

Additionally, we hope that our campaign will raise much-needed awareness in the region and globally so that other governments hoping to take the same measures engage all voices and make informed decisions that put the people, including youth, at the heart of Internet policy.

What will we do with our collected signatures?
We will deliver them to Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi who will present them to Parliament to represent the voices of the people and urge parliament to review the bill.
Please join us as we call upon the Ugandan Government to reconsider the taxes on Social Media and Mobile Money.

Acaa gave prosecution the second last chance to summon the witnesses to appear before court on September 17, 2019. The suspects’ lawyers including Benjamin Katana , Shamim Malende and Luyimbazi Nalukola prayed that prosecution makes sure that the trial begins next time.

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The case  

Trouble for the accused persons started in July, 2018 at City Square in Kampala where they staged a protest against the introduction of the Shs200 daily levy for social media users. Prosecution alleges that the group and others at still at large contravened sections five and ten of the Public Order Management Act, which regulates public meetings.  

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Police summon MP Robert Kyagulanyi

Monday July 16 2018


Police have summoned Member of Parliament (MP) for Kyadondo East and musician, Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine to answer tentative charges of assault, illegal assembly and theft of Police handcuffs.

The summons were made through a letter addressed to the speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, delivered on July 13, 2018.

This comes on the heels of the recent protests where Mr Kyagulanyi allegedly led the group that took to Kampala streets to protest against the new Shs200 daily social media and the 1% mobile money tax.

READ: MP Bobi Wine starts online petition against social media tax

The letter which was signed by the Officer in-Charge Criminal Investigations Kampala Central Police station (CPS), Mr Joshua Tusingwire requires Kagulanyi to appear at CPS on Wednesday at 9am.

The Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, confirmed to this reporter that the letter was meant to inform the speaker that Hon Kyagulanyi is wanted.

“The letter was sent to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, informing her that Mr Robert Kyagulanyi is wanted at CPS on Wednesday this week,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.

ALSO READ: Police fire teargas, bullets at social media tax protest

Mr Kyagulanyi is alleged to have spear-headed the protests which have since been classified as an illegal assembly by the police force.

It is also alleged that during the protest, the Divisional Police Commander (DPC) CPS Kampala, Joseph Bakaleke was assaulted and his handcuffs stolen.

On that day, three suspected protestors identified as David Luke, Katongole Julius and Nyanzi Ssentamu were arrested and have since been charged at Buganda Road Magistrate Court over holding an illegal assembly among other charges.

Mr Kyagulanyi's body guard known as Eddy Mutwe was also arrested over related charges and has been in police custody on tentative charges of assault and theft of handcuffs.

Addressing journalists shortly after the court session, Kyagulanyi said the charges brought against them are trumped up. He says the state brought up the charges him and his accused so as to divert them from their political agenda of challenging President, Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 elections.

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